Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

041 Who's Eating My Tomatoes, Part 3. Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects.

August 28, 2020 Fred Hoffman Season 1 Episode 41
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
041 Who's Eating My Tomatoes, Part 3. Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects.
Chapters
00:01:28
Who's Eating my Tomatoes, Part 3
00:11:49
Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects
00:17:58
The Tomato: Is it a Fruit or a Vegetable?
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
041 Who's Eating My Tomatoes, Part 3. Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects.
Aug 28, 2020 Season 1 Episode 41
Fred Hoffman

Welcome back to our little insecticidal soap opera, "Who’s Eating My Tomatoes?" College horticulture professor Debbie Flower joins us for our big finale of this three part series, which looks at the insect critters that don’t necessarily chew the tomatoes, but they sure make them look ugly and unappetizing. It's the sucking, piercing, rasping insects of tomatoes that get our attention today, along with a look at the beneficial insects, the garden good guys, that can do a better job than most chemicals at controlling your tomato pests. (Those are braconid wasp eggs on the back of that tomato worm in the picture. When they hatch, the larvae will burrow into the worm and eat the worm from the inside out. Look carefully, you might even see the braconid wasp!)
But those good guys need a home in your yard, so we talk about their housing requirements: the flowering plants that should be in everyone’s yard to provide natural control over tomato pests. Think of yourself as building the "Good Bug Hotel."
And to wrap up all this tomato talk, we answer the question: The Tomato: Is It a Fruit or a Vegetable? Turns out, both are correct. We’ll tell you why.

Links
An interactive master list of all tomato pests
A chart of beneficial insects for the garden
Building the Good Bug Hotel: beneficials and the plants they love
Natural Enemies Handbook
"Pests of the Garden and Small Farm" 3rd edition

More episodes and info including live links, product information, transcripts, and chapters available at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1004629.

Garden Basics comes out every Tuesday and Friday. It's available wherever podcasts are found.

Got a garden question? Call and leave a question, or text us the question: 916-292-8964. E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below. Be sure to tell us where you are when you leave a question, because all gardening is local.

All About Farmer Fred:
Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome back to our little insecticidal soap opera, "Who’s Eating My Tomatoes?" College horticulture professor Debbie Flower joins us for our big finale of this three part series, which looks at the insect critters that don’t necessarily chew the tomatoes, but they sure make them look ugly and unappetizing. It's the sucking, piercing, rasping insects of tomatoes that get our attention today, along with a look at the beneficial insects, the garden good guys, that can do a better job than most chemicals at controlling your tomato pests. (Those are braconid wasp eggs on the back of that tomato worm in the picture. When they hatch, the larvae will burrow into the worm and eat the worm from the inside out. Look carefully, you might even see the braconid wasp!)
But those good guys need a home in your yard, so we talk about their housing requirements: the flowering plants that should be in everyone’s yard to provide natural control over tomato pests. Think of yourself as building the "Good Bug Hotel."
And to wrap up all this tomato talk, we answer the question: The Tomato: Is It a Fruit or a Vegetable? Turns out, both are correct. We’ll tell you why.

Links
An interactive master list of all tomato pests
A chart of beneficial insects for the garden
Building the Good Bug Hotel: beneficials and the plants they love
Natural Enemies Handbook
"Pests of the Garden and Small Farm" 3rd edition

More episodes and info including live links, product information, transcripts, and chapters available at the home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1004629.

Garden Basics comes out every Tuesday and Friday. It's available wherever podcasts are found.

Got a garden question? Call and leave a question, or text us the question: 916-292-8964. E-mail: [email protected] or, leave a question at the Facebook, Twitter or Instagram locations below. Be sure to tell us where you are when you leave a question, because all gardening is local.

All About Farmer Fred:
Farmer Fred website: http://farmerfred.com
Daily Garden tips and snark on Twitter
The Farmer Fred Rant! Blog
Facebook:  "Get Growing with Farmer Fred"
Instagram: farmerfredhoffman
Farmer Fred Garden Videos on YouTube

Farmer Fred :

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information well you've come to the right spot. Welcome back to our little insecticidal soap opera, "Who's Eating My Tomatoes? part three". we're joined by college horticulture Professor (retired) Debbie Flower. Today's focus isn't on the insects that are chewing on the tomatoes or the bigger pests, the four legged pests that might be eating up your tomatoes. Instead, we're looking at the insect critters that make those tomatoes look ugly and unappetizing. The sucking, piercing, rasping insects of tomatoes. and we take a look at the beneficial insects, the garden good guys, that can do a better job than most chemicals at controlling your small tomato pests. But those good guys need a home in your yard. So we talked about their housing requirements, the flowering plants that should be in everyone's yard. To provide natural control over tomato pests. Think of yourself as building the good bug hotel. And to wrap up all this tomato talk, We answered the question: The tomato is it a fruit or a vegetable? Well, it turns out both are right. And we'll tell you why. We're going to learn something new again here on Garden Basics with Farmer Fred and we'll do it all again today in Episode 41. "Who's eating my tomatoes part three", and we'll do it all in under 30 minutes. Let's go. Well, here on the garden basics podcast lately, we have been attempting to solve a mystery. Who's eating my tomatoes? Debbie Flower is again joining us, our favorite retired horticulture teacher, and Debbie in the past two episodes, we've covered insects, including the two worms that chew; bigger animals that chew; but what about the other critters that one might find on tomato plants that are at the very least discoloring the tomatoes and just making them look bad? There's a lot of sucking, piercing rasping insects out there that are doing none of us any good?

Debbie Flower :

Yes, I'm here nodding my head. Yes. Yes, when we look at insects and the damage they cause we look at their mouthparts because that's how they damage the plant. And so there are sucking insects and they actually have to there are two basic types of sucking insects that have different types of mouthparts. One is called piercing, which is what it sounds like. It takes its mouthparts and pushes them into the plant, punctures the plant and then sucks the contents out. And that includes the true bugs. The plant bug which is kind of a green bug with a hard shell on it. aphids are piercing insects, lace bugs, leaf footed bugs, mealy bugs, see, keep hearing that word bug, a mealy bug is not a true bug. But those are insects that puncture the plant and puncture the fruit. And so if you get a fruit, a tomato, off your vine, and it's basically let's say it's a red tomato, and most of it's red, but there are some yellow spots, and when you cut it open, those yellow spots are kind of hard, they might even be white inside. That's the result of true bug damage. The damage like a true bug causes does not mean that you cannot eat the fruit. It doesn't do anything negative to you, if you were to eat that part of the fruit, it just may not be the tastiest part of the fruit or the prettiest part of the fruit. So the easiest thing is to just cut that little part out where it fed, they're not really big insects and each each time they attack it doesn't do a whole lot of damage to the plant but or to the does damage the fruit so you might just want to cut those parts out the other type of stuff sucking insect is called rasping, sucking, and rasping, is more like a sandpaper attack on the, on the fruit and other parts of the plant. So they rub against the plant and get the outermost layer of cells off and then they suck what is exposed, and the two types of insects that that do that are thrips there's only thrips there is no thrip. There's all one thrips is a thrips. And then mites do that. mites are actually a relative of spiders, but they're very tiny. And the damage that you see on is particularly on leaves these to feed on leaves, but you'll see distorted leaves and discolored leaves. The discoloration is sort of white or silvery, and we call it stippling. And I don't know why it's called stippling. But, but that's what it is called. And so these suckers insects can be controlled. The way I would like to control them is with beneficial insects have inviting beneficial insects to the garden that will eat or lay their eggs in, and then eat the the bad insect. So there are two basic types of beneficial insects. One is the predator, and one is the parasite. And if you think about those words, a predator is something that goes after something else. Oh, the cat that goes after the mouse, the cat is the predator. And so it if it catches the mouse, it potentially eats the mouse. And all the bugs fall into the predator category do that they chase after the other insect and then when they catch it, they eat it. And there's a whole list of predator insects, assassin bugs, centipedes, and millipedes, ground beetles, hover fly larva, often the larval stage of the insect is that teenage eating machine. lacewings, lady beetles which are also called lady bugs, minute pirate bugs, mites. There are mites that eat other mites there are beneficial mites that eat those rasping sucking, plant eating mites, praying mantids although they'll eat anything, they'll eat butterflies, they'll eat hummingbirds. But they do eat bad insects; soldier beetles, Snake flies, other spiders, the larva of surfid flies, tachinid flies, yellow jackets and paper wasps. So there are a whole host of insects that will eat the other insects in your garden. And that's the I think preferred way to control your, the bad insects in your garden. And then the other kinds of the parasite. a parasite is something that lives off of something else. Something else that's alive. If your brother in law's a parasite, then he's living off of you and you're feeding him, right? Okay, so this parasite is an insect that lives off of the insect that is damaging our plants. Most of them are very small, hmm four eighths of an inch quarter of an inch stingless wasps. And they lay eggs on or inside the insect that's damaging our garden. And then the insect egg hatches, and if it's on the insect, it goes inside the bad insect and eats it from the inside out. If it's already in there, then when it comes out as a larva, it eats the insect from the inside out. Basically, that's how they work. It's a little gross when you talk about it, but it's really quite interesting when you see it.

Farmer Fred :

Way back when when we were talking about tomato hornworm. Right right about sometimes people will find what look like little q-tip heads on the backs of the tomato horn worms. And that's actually the egg of one of those parasitic wasps, isn't it?

Debbie Flower :

Yes it is. And so they will, when the eggs hatch, then they're in the larval stage. The larva is typically a worm, many of the predators and are also eat in that worm that larval stage, and it's warm there. So when you look at your plants and you see little worms on them, don't freak out the little worms, in most cases are beneficial insects. But in the case of the ones coming out of a little cute tips on the hornworm that's the larva and then they eat start eating the tomato hornworm and so they do natural control for us. So if you see a tomato hornworm with those q tips on it, do not kill it, because it's got a whole population of beneficial insects on it.

Farmer Fred :

Yeah, there's a lot of garden good guys out there trying to help you out. So like you say, if you see that tomato hornworm with the white little q tips on its back, don't crush it, leave it alone, because that'll allow the wasp to mature And then go and do the same thing on other tomato hornworms in your yard. Getting back to some specific bugs that are discoloring tomato plants. I came across a few today. And it's a bug that's growing in popularity out here in the western United States. It's called the leaf footed bug. Mm hmm. The leaf footed bug is very noticeable because of its rear legs look like it's wearing water fins. They look like duck feet almost. Yes, everything I read about it. The authorities say Oh, don't worry about it. It's just a nuisance. And they go on to explain that even though you may see some discoloration it doesn't harm that tomato that go ahead. You can cut out the part that doesn't look okay. And enjoy the rest of the tomato. What is interesting about the leaf footed bug are the life cycles of the leaf footed bug because it changes It's looks as it develops from an egg all the way to an adult. The leaf footed bug eggs are actually laid out end to end in strands It looks like a (straight) pretzel that you might see on a tomato or another fruit they are by the way speaking of fruits, they came to the attention of the the Integrated Pest Management folks here in California when they started going after pomegranates in a big way, and that's when the leaf footed bugs seemed to rise in popularity and in population so those pretzels that you might see is actually the leaf footed bug eggs and like if you have a pomegranate plant, check it out for those pretzels that might be on there and go ahead and destroy those. And then there's the leaf footed bug nymph the baby instar if you will, of the adult.

Debbie Flower :

I have seen the adults and the nymphs hanging out on plants in the morning. They they tend to be very, very In the morning when it's cooler, but the family hangs out together.

Farmer Fred :

And what's interesting about the nymphs is they resemble a garden good guy called the assassin bug, those small nymphs, the leaf footed bug nymphs. They resemble the young assassin bugs. So you really need a positive identification to determine the difference between the two.

Debbie Flower :

Yes, and if you're going to get to know bugs, probably the ones I would concentrate on learning are those beneficials what they look like, if you know what the good there are, I would say fewer good guys in the garden in terms of diversity of species than bad guys. But if you know what the good guys look like, then, you know, if you're looking at something and you don't know it, it's probably a bad guy. population of those good guys in your garden is to plant flowers that attract them. So always having some flowers in bloom, relatively close to the vegetable garden is Very helpful. We've talked before about letting things like carrots and and dill Go to seed in the garden, cilantro as well basil, letting some of the herbs go to seed because those flowers are feeding giving these insects the sugar meal that they need. The insect that they're eating is giving them the protein for their diet, but they need the sugar and the sugar is going to come from the flower. So having in your garden, something related to the carrot family, and so that would be caraway or anise, or the cilantro, dill, white lace flower sometimes called Bishop's weed or wild carrot, or Yarrow. Yarrow is a perennial, so you could have a little patch of that that comes up every year. You could also have something in the daisy family because that center of the daisy allows the insect to feed on many many different flowers. The center of a daisy is many Many flowers all together at once. So liatris, chomomoile, coreopsis, Cosmos, Marguerite, golden rod, marigold, tithonia, sunflowers and Tansy are all possibilities and they will attract paired predators and parasites. Then thing plants from the cabbage family attract a lot of hoverflies. hoverflies look like bees, but they're not hairy bees are hairy. And they tend to just hang out in the air with their wings going over a flower, and that's where they get the name hoverfly. But they're larva they adults just eat sugar, but the larva are wonderful predators. And so if we let a broccoli go to seed, or I'm sorry to flower, let broccoli go to flower or have some sweet alyssum I always like to have sweet alyssum it's an annual but grows fairly easily. And reseeds itself. new ones that come up aren't as beautiful but they still flower and they still attract those predators, some mustard. Often when you look in a grape orchard in the spring, you're seeing lots of yellow flowers and those are mustards. mustards or bitter green. We can grow them for that reason, or we can just grow them and let them flower and attract our beneficial insects, or iberis, which is also called candy tuft. That is a perennial, that's a pretty cold tolerant one. So even in colder climates that can be a perennial you have around the garden that will attract beneficials. So there are others as well that you can plant: scabiosa, alfalfa, clover, fecilia and California native called eriogonum, which is also another great hoverfly attractor. So having a flower garden, close to the vegetable garden is really really helpful and having the beneficials come.

Farmer Fred :

we'll have a link at the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast show notes, For this episode, we'll call it the good bug hotel, you click on that and you're going to hear about all the plants Debbie just mentioned, and how they attract the good guys. And of course, it's very important that if you've got a yard full of good guys, you got to put the poisons away. You can't be using these non selective insecticides to go after the bad guys because you're gonna hurt the good guys as well.

Debbie Flower :

Very, very true. Even the ones that we think of as the or are, that are, let's say organic, organic does not mean it is not poisonous. It is poisonous. It's just made from things that are recently alive, or it's been mined, but it will damage the beneficials as much or more as the the insects that are attacking our plants. And the other thing to remember is that if you're going to take let the beneficial insects the predators and parasites control the pest population in your garden, you have to have some of the pest population. You can't eradicate it completely and expect the beneficials to hang around. They don't have anything to eat, they have to find a place to eat something. One other thing to remember is that it's been proven with raspberries for sure. I don't know if other plants have have been tested, but that plants that have been attacked by insects, and other things, even four legged pests produce chemicals inside of them that when we eat them are healthier for us. So although we think of them as bad pests for our garden, they stimulate the plant to make healthier food for us. We we kind of have to change our way of thinking about all of this.

Farmer Fred :

Well, once again, we've helped solve the mystery of who's that chewing on my tomato or sucking on it or rasping it or doing whatever to it. There's plenty out there, but there's plenty of good guys to help you out. Like Debbie Flower. Good guy, Debbie. Thank you for helping us through this mystery.

Debbie Flower :

Oh, it's a pleasure. Thanks, Fred.

Farmer Fred :

The Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast has a lot of information posted at each episode transcripts links to any products or books mentioned during the show, and other helpful links for even more information. Plus, you can listen to just the portions of the show that interest you. It's been divided into easily accessible chapters, and you'll find more information about how to get in touch with us we have links to all our social media outlets, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Also a link to the farmer fred.com website. That's where you can find out more information about the radio shows. You remember radio, right? now if the place where you access the podcast doesn't have that information. You can find it all at our home. podcaster buzzsprout buzzsprout.com just look for the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. You'll find a link to it in the show notes. Well throughout our entire discussion about tomatoes you heard Debbie Flower refer to the tomato as a fruit? "Whoa", You might be saying. "I thought it was a vegetable". Actually, they're both right. No food straddles the line between fruit and vegetable more famously than the tomato. Now Debbie Flower, being a college horticulture Professor retired, obviously is going to answer the question technically correct. Scientifically speaking tomatoes are fruits even according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary. A fruit is the usually edible reproductive body of a seed plant. The dictionary explained it as anything that grows on a plant and is the means by which that plant gets its seeds out into the world is a fruit. And that definition applies to apples, tomatoes, anything else that grows from a plant that contains seeds, and that would include cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, avocados, they're all fruits to, according to science, but as science alert.com points out, vegetables on the other hand, have a slightly murkier definition, it's a word we use to group together a wide range of plants whose parts are edible and herbaceous like Roots, stems or leaves. The critical distinction is that according to the dictionary, a vegetable must be part of a plant or the whole plant itself, while the fruits are just the means by which certain plants spread their seeds. The Merriam Webster dictionary wrote the thing a tomato plant produces isn't a part of the plant itself, any more than the egg a chicken lays is part of the chicken or the apple is part of the tree on which it grew. The confusion arises because a vegetable isn't a botanical classification so much as it's a culinary one. And let's face it, fruit can be a culinary term to describe as having a sweet pulp associated with the seed and use chiefly in a desert or a sweet course. So scientifically, fruits don't have to be sweet but in the kitchen, most people would classify the fruits that fall on the savory side like tomatoes, as vegetables. Nutrition has recognized the terms as they're commonly used. So according to USDA guidelines, tomatoes are listed as a vegetable. And you may recall the Supreme Court has even weighed in on this issue. Yes, it was a long time ago, 1893. The High Court was forced to rule on whether imported tomatoes should be taxed under the Tariff Act of 1883, which only applied to vegetables and not fruits. Although both sides cited dictionary definitions of the two words, the court cited unanimously with the vegetable team. Supreme Court Justice Horace Grace summed up the argument as botanically speaking tomatoes are the fruit of the vine just as are cucumber, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people, all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which whether eaten cooked or raw are like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery and lettuce usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish or meats, which constitutes the principal part of the repast and not like fruits, generally which are served as dessert. Now you might be asking, Well, how did this ever get in front of the Supreme Court? Well, no surprise here. It involved money. The High Court issued, in 1893, this ruling was brought by members of the Nix family against Edward Hedden. He was the collector of taxes at the Port of New York to recover the fees that they spent transporting tomatoes. The Nix had sued under the Tariff Act of 1883, which required taxes on imported vegetables, but not fruit. Ah, now you see where we're going with this. Most people would consider a tomato a vegetable. And the court essentially gave that reasoning, in Nix versus heddon. tomato is a vegetable because people think it is. The arguments were short and simple. And the Court unanimously decided that the scientific classification of a tomato doesn't change common language. Therefore that Tariff Act intended to tax tomatoes and the Nix family wouldn't get their money back. Interestingly enough, that court ruling on tomato classification still stands and continues to affect legal proceedings. Usually it's pertaining to payment of back taxes. But perhaps the argument, is the tomato a fruit or vegetable, was put to rest fairly succinctly by humor journalist Miles Kington who passed away in 2008. He may have settled the debate once and for all when he wrote, "knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Garden Basics comes out every Tuesday and Friday and it's available just about anywhere podcasts are handed out, and that includes Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, I Heart Radio, overcast, Spotify, Stitcher, tune in, and "Hello Alexa, play the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, would you please? Thank you for listening, subscribing and leaving comments. We appreciate it.

Who's Eating my Tomatoes, Part 3
Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects
The Tomato: Is it a Fruit or a Vegetable?